Shade Plants for South Florida

Hostas are the most popular shade plant available.
Hostas are the most popular shade plant available. (Image: Hosta image by Michele Maakestad from

Gardeners often express frustration over plant selection for shady conditions. Many plants simply will not grow well under trees or in the shade of a building. However, there are several plants choices that are appropriate for shade gardens in South Florida.


Ageratum houstonianum, also known as flossflower, grows to an average height of 24 inches. A liberal reseeder, the flossflower features small, fuzzy blue flowers. Oval shape leaves grow up to four inches in length.

Coreopsis tinctoria, also known as tickseed, grows to a height of four feet. The plant features opposite leaves dissected into linear segments. With stiff stems, the coreopsis tinctoria features showy flowerheads, two inches across. Eight golden petals surround a purple center on this daisy-like flower.

Impatiens are well regarded by shade gardeners as an excellent choice for color in a shady area. Low mounds grow to approximately two feet tall. Impatiens come in many varieties of flower and leaf shapes.


Aquilegia canadensis, also known as wild columbine, this perennial features small red, purple and yellow flowers. With strong self-seeding tendencies, columbine produces new plant growth in shaded flower beds. With an average size of 24 inches tall by 12 inches wide, the foliage should remain evergreen in South Florida gardens.

Helleborus orientalis, commonly called the Lenten rose, remains evergreen in South Florida during the winter. This herbaceous perennial features dark green foliage and white flowers that bloom during the winter months. With neatly rounded blooms and a height of up to 20 inches, the Lenten rose can be found in South Florida gardens in colors pink, rose and purple.

Muscari species, or the grape hyacinth, provides color and fragrance to the shade garden. The hyacinth features upright flowering stalks with clusters of blue flowers. It grows from a bulb that overwinters in the ground. Each plant may have one to three stalks that bloom in early spring.


Setaria palmifolia, commonly known as palm grass, features a tropical look with wide pleated leaves. Each leaf may grow up to three feet long and five inches wide. However, in South Florida there is the potential that the grass may grow as tall as 10 feet. An extremely fast grower, palm grass has light green inflorescence, or a cluster of flowers, which arches several feet above the foliage.

Carex pendula, also known as drooping sedge, provides green leaves four feet in length. With a weeping mound, it produces thin flower spikes six inches long that arch over the foliage. Variegated varieties provide bright contrast in early summer.

Chasmanthium latifolium, or wood oat, features oat-shaped clusters of seeds. With a height of five feet, a single clump may spread as far as two feet across. Leaves and flowers turn tan in fall and reddish-bronze in South Florida winters.


Nerium oleander is a fast growing evergreen that can grow up to 20 feet tall. Trimming keeps oleander at a height of 6 to 10 inches. This hardy plant features showy five-petaled flowers in white, red, salmon, yellow and pink.

Gaylussacia frondosa, also known as blue huckleberry, produces edible huckleberries in a shaded garden. With growth up to three feet tall, the huckleberry remains evergreen in South Florida winters.

Euonymus fortunei, commonly called wintercreeper, climbs along the ground or up stable vertical surfaces. A vigorous climber, when planted as a ground cover, wintercreeper's vines reach great distances. The small flowers later produce pale orange fruits, which last well into winter. Variegated varieties are available.

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